Christine “Chrissy” Braun’s first volunteer position with the nonprofit CatNap from the Heart was not very glamorous: cleaning out cages. But it was enough for Braun, then 15, to realize the shelter was a place she loved.
“I saw all the lives I could save over a short period of time, especially those animals who have no voice and no owner to speak for them,” says Braun. “I couldn’t help but be passionate about that. I latched on immediately.”
Braun vowed to become a veterinarian. She continued volunteering at CatNap, in her home town of LaGrange Park IL., throughout high school. The limited-access shelter takes in about 1,600 cats, kittens and other small mammals each year.
Braun returned to CatNap to volunteer during breaks in college and, later, veterinary school. She spent her residency working in shelters and spay-and-neuter clinics. So, when she graduated from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in May 2017, there was no question that she would apply to CatNap.
The organization’s staff was excited to hire a familiar face to serve as the shelter’s veterinarian. Braun’s hiring coincided with the opening of Catnap’s new low-cost clinic, which serves animals from 15 other shelters and rescues, as well as local Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) groups and caregivers. As the only veterinarian, Braun performs more than 50 surgeries each week. In the past year, she has spayed and neutered hundreds of community cats.
Along with the rest of CatNap’s staff, Braun is a strong advocate for TNR. The organization shares Alley Cat Allies’ materials and resources, loans out traps and teaches community members how to trap feral cats.
Braun is hopeful that CatNap’s increased TNR advocacy will help control the area’s feral cat population. Already, she’s noticing that more cat owners are getting their cats spayed or neutered. Making an impact on the lives of cats is very fulfilling, she says.
“I loved volunteering at CatNap, but I really wanted to do more for the community and our feral and stray cat populations,” she says. “Now I’m in a place where I can do that.”